Elmer Salvador tries to do what he does best at Riviera, snapping a long title spell as he shoots for a third straight ICTSI Riviera Classic championship beginning today at the par-71 Langer course in Silang, Cavite.
Salvador ended a long drought by topping the 2014 edition then broke another year-long spell when he foiled Miguel Tabuena and Jay Bayron’s final round charge to win by two last year.
“This course has been good to me the last two years and I hope to do it again this week,” said the reticent Salvador, who, however, went on another slump after finishing tied for fourth at Calatagan last May.
He ended up joint 12th at Eagle Ridge, tied for 10th at Forest Hills, wound up joint 20th in Bacolod, limped to 39th in Negros Occidental and finished tied for 15th in last week’s Aboitiz Invitational at Wack Wack East.
He earlier wound up 21st at Anvaya, struggled to finish joint 35th at Luisita, missed the cut at ICTSI Manila Southwoods and ended up joint 30th at ICTSI Sherwood, both legs of Asian Development Tour, and missed the cut again at Manila Masters.
That would take Salvador more than luck to win again here with the rest of the competing international field all primed up for the top P270,000 purse in the P2 million event put up by ICTSI and serving as the 12th leg of this year’s Philippine Golf Tour.
The Davaoeño shotmaker kicks off his bid against Mars Pucay and Mhark Fernando at 7:40 a.m. on No. 10 where he hopes to build some momentum given the condition of the course softened up by rain the last few days.
Meanwhile, Jay Bayron, coming off a rousing victory at Wack Wack, reigning PGT Order of Merit winner Tony Lascuña and two-leg winner Clyde Mondilla slug it out in the featured threesome at 7:40 a.m. on No. 1 in what promises to be a duel of shotmaking, iron game and putting among three of the leading players in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Others tipped to contend for the crown are former club pro Marvin Dumandan, who drew Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Orlan Sumcad in the 7:30 a.m. flight, also on No. 1; Charles Hong, Cassius Casas and Anthony Fernando, who will start at 8 a.m. at the back; Jobim Carlos, Benjie Magada and Artemio Murakami, who will tee off at 7:20 a.m., also on No. 10.
Nicolas Paez, the American who led the Aboitiz Invitational in the middle rounds but faltered with a closing 77 and wound up joint sixth, is also expected to prove his worth as he drew Arnold Villacencio and Danny Zarate at 8:30 a.m.
Young American Micah Shin is also fancied to crowd the favorites along with Rufino Bayron, Justin Quiban, Ferdie Aunzo, Joenard Rates. Jun Bernis, Jerson Balasabas, Gerald Rosales, Jhonnel Ababa and Zanieboy Gialon.
Aside from Paez, Shin and Van der Valk, the other foreign players seeking a breakthrough in the 72-hole championship, backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion, are Kroeans Seok Jun Min, Hong Soon Hyup, Kim Chang Yeon, Park Jun Hyeok, Park Jun Song and Charlie Chang, Japanese Shotaro Onuki and Yuta Sudo, and Aussies Kingsley Kelly, Peter Stojanovski and Frederick Park.